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The precarious state of bowling centers

AMF's bowling centers probably wouldn't have survivied without Bowlmor.
AMF's bowling centers probably wouldn't have survivied without Bowlmor.Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images

So what would have happened had Bowlmor not swooped in to rescue AMF Bowling Worldwide, Inc., from bankruptcy last year?

That was one of the interesting parts of International Bowling Industry magazine’s interview of Tom Shannon in its May issue.

Shannon is now the chief executive officer, chairman and president of Bowlmor AMF, the result of the merger of the two companies in July. Before the merger, Shannon was the CEO of Bowlmor, a chain of six upscale bowling houses known for its Las Vegas-style sports look and laneside food and drink service.

It turns out that Bowlmor was the only company to come forward willing to bid on AMF, which had fallen into bankruptcy for the second time in 10 years.

Shannon told the magazine that Bowlmor became interested in AMF “as soon as they filed for bankruptcy.”

And what would have happened had AMF not found a partner to bail it out? Shannon told the magazine that he expected AMF would have had to liquidate its assets.

That means AMF would have had to sell its bowling centers or, more likely, just close them. And that would have resulted in thousands of lost jobs.

It’s no secret that bowling houses have been closing every year across the country because of the financial difficulties they face.

Just recently, examiner.com reported the five-year anniversary of the closing of Rocket Bowl in Chatsworth, a true landmark that had brought bowlers and the social crowd to its grounds for 47 years.

And Rocket Bowl hasn’t been the only area bowling center to close. Top bowler Johnnie Englehart recalls several dozen centers falling off the map for one reason or another.

His list included: Reseda Bowl, Granada Bowl, Victory Lanes, Encino Bowl, Valley Center/West Valley Bowl, Northridge Lanes, Rocky Mountain/Belair, Mar Lindo, Verdugo Hills Bowl, Grand Center Lanes, Sherman Squire Lanes, Burbank Bowl, Van Nuys Bowl, Bowlerland, Sunland Bowl and Panorama Bowl.

Quite an extensive list.

And when one considers it could have grown by all those AMF bowling centers if they were forced to close, it really would have marked a dark day for bowlers.

That’s not to say that Bowlmor’s appearance on the AMF scene has pleased everyone. Many AMF league bowlers have been disgruntled because they feel they haven’t received the support they have in the past.

And they’ve shown that discontent by exiting for other bowling centers.

But the fact remains: AMF bowling centers still offer league play on most nights. And they still are trying vigorously to hold on to their league players and make them happy.

Better yet: the AMF centers still exist – despite some trying financial conditions.